Pink Ribbons, Inc. looks at how corps have exploited breast cancer for profit.
Breast Fest is labelled "A Rethink Breast Cancer Event," which makes Léa Pool's superb documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. a perfect fit (November 3, rating: NNNN). Not only does it compel you to rethink the sources of the disease, it forces you to question everything we're doing about it.
Cancer is big business, nowhere more so than in the context of the Pink Ribbon campaigns.
Based on prof Samantha King's book, it probes the outrageous ways corporations exploit breast cancer for profit while doing almost nothing about the epidemic itself.
The political anger that spawned the movement to end breast cancer has morphed into a series of feel-good events that serve to build brands. Many of the corporations involved - including Revlon, Ford and even KFC (!) - support Pink Ribbon campaigns while promoting products that could themselves be related to cancer.
Like Pool's previous features, the film looks terrific, thanks, ironically, to all those seas of pink. Animated sequences add to the effect, and the talking heads are brilliant, including King, Barbara Ehrenreich (whose article Welcome To Cancerland also inspired the doc) and especially Barbara Brenner of Breast Cancer Action.
If you missed Pink Ribbons when it had its first run, don't miss it here. This is shit-disturbing at its best.
Another documentary sure to raise your outrage levels is Semper Fi: Always Faithful (November 4, rating: NNN), about former Marines who fought to make the U.S. military accountable for poisoning their families living on the Camp Lejeune base.
Between 1957 and 1987, toxic chemicals were improperly disposed of, eventually turning up in the well water. And the Marine brass knew it. They just ignored anybody who told them about it.
When his daughter dies of leukemia, Master Sergeant Jerry Esminger starts connecting with other ex-Marines whose family members are dying of cancer. Soon he and cohort Mike Partain, who's been diagnosed with breast cancer, start digging up research and talking to workers at the camp who had, in fact, informed authorities and were ignored.
Esminger took his case all the way to Congress, where a bill named after his daughter was eventually tabled to give the suffering families the health care and relief they needed.
But not before they encountered unconscionable resistance from the Marine honchos and corporate interests who had manufactured the chemicals in the first place.
The documentary is expertly shot and has all the right elements - the epidemiologists who explain the connections between chemicals and cancer and other Marine Corps family members who were dismissed by the military brass, whose talk about the Marine "family" proves cheap indeed.
But what's most moving about the film is that it shows how ordinary Americans, who really would rather be lounging by the fire at home, developed a burning activism for a cause they refused to abandon.